Christians In Iraq: 'We Feel The West Has Forgotten Us'

A displaced Iraqi child, who fled from Islamic State violence in Mosul, fills jerry cans with water at a refugee camp in Erbil.Reuters

Many Christians stuck in refugee camps in Iraq feel abandoned by Christians in the West, according to a new report.

Edward Pentin visited a camp for Iraqis displaced by Islamic State in Erbil, the Kurdistan region, with the charity Aid to the Church in Need.

The camps in this part of Iraq are overshadowed by a sense of looming crisis.

Already there are more than 1.4 million displaced people in the camps with the number likely to double as a further 1.5 million flee Mosul when the offensive to retake the city from ISIS begins in the next few days.

Pentin's report for the National Catholic Register gives a moving picture of the hardships of day-to-day living for the displaced people who decided to stay in Iraq, despite the horrors and even after losing everything. They are now dependendent on humanitarian aid.

One survivor, Haney, a 76-year-old Syriac Catholic woman, described how Islamic State militants raided her house, kidnapped her and her son and then let them go. They fled to the Dawudiya camp in the mountains.

"It's very bad in the camps right now because people are afraid about the future," Syriac Catholic priest Father Roni Salim Momika told Pentin. "The government isn't doing anything for the Christian people and the refugees, who have no good news. ... We don't know if we'll stay in Iraq or go abroad; we have no solution."

The camps include more than 100,000 Christians, mainly Catholic and Orthodox, as well as thousands more Shia Muslims and Yazidis. Many Christians have fled abroad but more have stayed.

Pentin quoted one woman who said she and her family feel abandoned by Christians abroad. "We feel the West has forgotten us," she said.

Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of Aid to the Church in Need UK, said the Church was making a strong case to reclaim its place in a region where there had been a Christian presence for two millennia.

A few days ago there was widespread disappointment when plans for a new Christian province in the Ninenvah Plain in Iraq appeared to have been vetoed.